I’m not much of a shopper. In fact, I hate shopping, but I have some things that I bought without exactly shopping for them that qualify as “market finds”.

The first was my coffee table which isn’t a coffee table in real life, or the life it was made for. The Good X was an avid shopper any time any place and one of his favorite ways to spend Sunday mornings was to go to one of San Diego County’s largest swap meets in the parking lot of a drive-in theater in El Cajon. It was the late 80’s and, at first it was because we’d just bought a house — a crack house in City Heights — we were fixing up, and then it was just (as far as I could tell) to wander aimlessly around in the heat looking at other people’s junk.

Over time I made friends with one of the regular vendors at the swap meet — a man from Afghanistan who’d refugeed with his family when the Russians had invaded. There were other Afghani men selling at the swap meet, and after a while, I just hung out with them, sitting on a carpet in the shade of an old school bus drinking water and eating grapes and listening to them tell me stories of Afghanistan. We were all expats, at least psychologically.

But this isn’t that story.

I was still homesick for China (where I taught from 1982-83), though I’d been back three years, and from time-to-time beautiful Chinese antiques showed up at the swap meet. One of them is this. In China, in my experience, this would be a dining table for the family who sat around it on low stools. It made total sense given Chinese table customs. The only time I experienced the style directly was on Hainan Island. When it was just “us” (family) for a meal, we sat at a table like this. When it was a bigger party, they had a large “normal” table. Anyway, it’s beautiful and old and evocative to me and I love it.

I guess my OTHER “market find” (which also involves China) is a pair of Chinese scholar cabinets that suddenly showed up in my Facebook feed this past winter. They were at a local flea market that often sells stuff from estate sales on consignment. I’ve had my books on an open shelf since I moved here and that was a disaster of dust. I’d long wanted shelves with doors but… And there these were, early 20th century cabinets for books. Exactly right for me and absurdly inexpensive. I went and got them as soon as I saw them.

Polar Bear Yeti Dog (and some furniture)

I guess the beautiful white dog in the photo was also a kind of “market find.”

Catching Air

The days reached across spring into the hot long interludes of summer, burning sidewalks and sweat down the back. The little girls, their skate keys on shoestrings tied around their necks, cruised down the street imagining the future of Olympics and Ice Capades. The boys buzzed by on banana-seated sting-rays until someone’s parent yelled down the street, “Supper!” Then the day came when someone took their sister’s skate apart and nailed the wheels to a 2 x 4 and what seemed like destructive mischief was but a bigger thrill, staying up on that wobbly 2 x 4 while riding down the steepest hill they could find.

“Those goddamned things are dangerous. You aren’t riding that. OK we’ll buy one that’s safer, but it belongs to your mom. If she says you can borrow hers, you can. Otherwise? Ride your bikes.”

Then sometime in August the thrill was gone and school couldn’t start soon enough. All this is true — except the banana seat-sting ray. “That’s no goddamned bike. That’s a toy. You’re getting a 3 speed.” My dad had his non-negotiable beliefs, just like everyone else.

The other evening, with the kids and their parents and a friend of theirs, some of these images wafted through my mind. As kids, my brother and I were absolutely free. These kids aren’t. Around the table, there was much staring at phones (not me, of course, obviously because…) The kids were just the same as my brother and me. Virtually interchangeable beings with the little beings I was and with whom I grew up.

I don’t know how things are supposed to be any more. The trap of nostalgia tells all us old people, “Those were the good old days. Kids today….yada yada yada” but I don’t know. I don’t know what world they will grow up to.

One of the Boys on Bikes is sharing his love of BMX with his son and daughter. They’ve joined a very organized BMX club with uniforms and a schedule of races. I think that is awesomely cool. He rides for the team, too. A former pro-trick rider, he’s now racing. The photos of him, the kids, their uniforms and gigantic trophies are wonderful. I’m proud of him and grateful to have had a role in his life during a pivotal few years. I’m glad I had a truck and was willing and able to take him and his pals to the BMX jumps that, sometime in the 70s, kids dug into the hills of same wilderness park where I hiked. I look back on our years of weekends as some of the best times in my life. But the Boys on Bikes didn’t have helmets or uniforms or adult supervision or anything to protect their little bodies from injury. If there was any organization, it came from them and the occasional times when I was there and they asked me. Their sport was dangerous, but so were their lives.

Do I think his kids should be riding helmet-less and hell-bent like he was? No…but. Should kids run wild and free on the summer streets? I guess that depends a little where those streets are.

The other evening, after the cookout, I had to beg permission from the kids’ mom to let them ride their bikes all the way down the alley to my house and back. She was worried someone would pull out of their alley driveway and hit the kids. Since almost no one lives here any more, the chances are slim. Then, I thought, “I think the kids can learn to watch for cars.” So their mom stood by their house and watched as they rode home with me.

I’m not criticizing the mom or anyone else. And I didn’t have kids of my own and the kids in whose lives I was involved are today’s parents. I can’t possibly know what it was like raising kids in the 80s and 90s — or now. All I did with kids was be the nice person down the street they could talk to and a decent stepmom. Is the world dangerous? Yes, but judging from the news one of the most dangerous places for kids is school.

I offered to take the kids for bike rides at the high school. The mom said. “No. The park.” What’s the difference? The high school is a huge parking lot where kids will ride all over the place in every direction. There’s a track kids can ride around and race. There are sidewalks and small hills and lips from which to catch a tiny bit of air. The park is a 3/4 mile track where old people walk off their heart attacks. Lots of kids ride at the high school. I’ve seen them have wonderful times. Little kids with their parents. Older kids without. Oh well. Not my kids. Not my rules. Will I take them? Probably not.

It led me to think about memories of childhood and the sweetness of those recollections of first freedom. ❤

Surprising Summer Walk

Yesterday — to our total and complete surprise — the sky clouded over, the wind came up, the trees tossed their heads around and knowing the importance of carpeing the diem, I closed the back door, put on real shoes, leashed Bear and headed out. It was an…


There was a poor hungry raven attempting to raid anyone’s nest and being chased by everybody. It was fun to watch him feint and dive to escape the sharp beaks of all the little birds, mostly redwing blackbirds. I saw him later attempting to raid the nests of doves. Don’t believe doves = peace. Not in the real world. Fierce beasties. They usually hang out in the spruce trees and on the roof of the ranger’s house.

The waterbirds have mostly taken off for points north. Only four adult geese remain in the big pond, both with their families. One has a family of one gosling. The other has eight. The goose fights over territory are over now and they all swim happily together like best friends.

As Bear and I went our way in the wind, which liberated us from heat, mosquitoes and horse-flies, Bear stopped, her eyes rapt on something to the north west. I stopped, too. Dogs are great for making sure we don’t miss things. And there was…

Bessie, her sisters, their husband, and one solitary yearling calf. They were closer to the pasture where we’d met than they’d been since last summer. It’s totally irrational, but love that cow. Well, in a general sense I love cows. I think they’re really cool animals and yes, I do eat them from time to time. They aren’t my favorite food, but sometimes a bit of cow is very tasty.

I think Bessie and her family are unlikely to be steaks. I don’t know their story, but they are incredibly beautiful Herefords, and my theory is Bessie’s husband’s sperm goes for a pretty good price. The herd never grows or diminishes in size. It’s always a small clutch of bovine beauty, a bull, and a yearling.

The wonderful thing is that when I called out, “Bessie!” (not her name, just the name I gave her) they all turned to look at me and one of the cows came as close as she could to the fence between us — 1/8 mile away :-(. Bessie has come when I’ve called her in the past so maybe that IS her name. Seeing them made me think about last summer and how wonderful it was in September last year when I met them. I had a feeling of camaraderie with those cows, their curiosity and slow-moving purpose. The photo is Bessie the first time I saw her last September.

As we walked, the light changed constantly.

Only a few flowers bloom in the Refuge, that is things that LOOK like flowers. Every plant blooms in its way. The wetlands are still a mystery to me because I don’t really go INTO them, but along the trail were yellow clover, something called “white top,” primrose. A little later in the summer the tall, yellow primrose will be blooming. But on the way the pastures were filled with wild iris.

No photos, sorry. Since I don’t have a working phone, I see no point in taking the new or old phone out there. The new phone is big and, in my mind, heavy. I regret very much even entering this adventure of a new phone, but I did, I have a contract, and a good camera (aka phone), so I should just be grateful I guess. Actually, grateful is just a good strategy. Sometime in the next few days I’ll head up to Colorado Springs and, hopefully, get this thing going.

Word Up!

“A breach, T.L.? It’s where things break down. An opening. Like an old wall that has a crack in it. There’s a breach in the wall, and the weeds grow through it.”

“How do YOU know?”

“I’m in seventh grade. I KNOW things. You’re only in third or something.”


“Whatever, you haven’t learned ‘breach’ yet. Now you have. It’s an opening.”

“Who died and made you the dictionary?”


“I guess that’s why I got it wrong.”

“Got what wrong?”

“On the vocabulary test. I hate school. I never learn anything.”

“You just did. You learned ‘breach’.”

“Not from school. From you. My stupid brother. My stupid teacher doesn’t teach as good as my stupid brother.”

“You have to learn this stuff Tina Louise. Do you want to spend your life in fourth grade.”


“Let’s see your list.”

Tina Louise went into the kitchen and dug the test out of the trash. She took a paper towel, wet it a little, cleaned the ketchup off the top and took it back to her room.


“You only got one right?”

“I hate school. I hate vocabulary.”

“Ha ha ha! You said ‘breach’ was ‘pants’.”

“Like the ‘Little Breaches Rodeo’.”

“That’s not breaches. That’s ‘britches’.”

“Don’t tell mom and dad, OK?”

“T.L., you know you’re gonna’ get a report card. They’ll find out. How many of these have you flunked?”

“Pretty much all of them.”

“You want me to help you?”

“I hate my teacher. I hate school. All we do is learn stuff and take tests.”

“That’s school, T.L.”

“I don’t want to go any more.”

“OK, what about this one. You got it right.”

“Yeah. ONE.”

“OK, that’s better than NONE. What about this one? Let’s try it.”

“Dis-pos-able. Vocabulary is disposable. I can’t learn it. It’s disposable for me.”

Derrick looked at the crumpled piece of paper smoothed out, washed by his little sister and smelling of ketchup. He didn’t want to laugh at her, but it was becoming more and more difficult not to.

“Apparently not, TL.”

I’m in a creative funk and I figure the best way out of it is to write a story every day and maybe draw a picture. It’s very hot here in Heaven, it’s impossible to get out with the dogs at the moment. I have a hangover from the past year and a bad case of ennui. I can’t complain because it’s been a LOOOONNNNGGG time since I’ve felt a funk like this and I can see where it came from. I’m a very lucky person — something that’s also clear to me — and I know that this will pass. One of the things most in demand by life itself is patience. 🙂

Old Golds

Methinks thou dost protest too much,” said the woman from her arm chair, cigarette in hand, smoke winding slowly up through the lampshade chimney.

“Everyone else is going. THEIR parents let THEM.

“If everyone was jumping off the Brooklyn bridge would you jump just because everyone else is? The answer is NO.”

Mathilda turned and waltzed out of the room. It was hopeless. Her friend, Adelaide, was waiting in the back yard for the verdict.


“No. I got the Brooklyn Bridge thing.”

“I HATE the Brooklyn Bridge thing. My parents do that, too.”


“Yeah. You want me to go talk to her? Maybe I can talk her into it.”

Mathilda shrugged. “I don’t think it would work. The Brooklyn Bridge is usually the end of the conversation. “

“I’ll try. She’s not MY mom. She has to be nice to me.”

“OK, but…”

“Just stay here.”

The shade of the house slowly covered the back yard, the picnic table where Mathilda was siting, the Rose of Sharon bush and Adelaide still hadn’t come back. “I wonder what happened?” Mathilda went inside and found her mom cooking dinner.

“Where’s Adelaide?”

“I sent her home. If you have something to say to me, talk to ME, don’t send in your attorneys.”


“I told you no. You knew my answer. Then you went out there and got your little friend to come in and try another tactic.”

“She wanted to come in and talk to you. I didn’t make her.”

“Be that as it may, in this house I’m judge and jury.”

“Her parents are letting her go.”

“So I heard. Well, your parents AREN’T letting you go. You’re only eleven years old. You have plenty of time for movies like that. Set the table. Your dad will be home any minute.”

Mathilda wondered what her mom meant by “movies like that.” She decided to ask Adelaide during recess. Adelaide knew everything.

The prompt this morning is the word “spruiker.” Here’s the definition:  “noun at spruik verb. DEFINITIONS1. 1. (Australian English) someone who tries to persuade people to buy something, use a service, etc often in a dishonest or exaggerated way.” Since the one example that came to mind is someone and something I don’t want to write about this’ll have to suffice. 🙂


The seeds of destiny are sown in mysterious realms.

“What does that MEAN???”

“It means that destiny is, well, OK, it’s like this. The seeds of destiny are sown in strange places.”

“Yeah but what are ‘seeds of destiny’?”




“So the whole vagina uterus thing is a ‘mysterious realm’?”

“Well, yeah.”

Tom and Trevor, have you got an interpretation of that line of poetry to share with the class or are you giggling over something else?”

“Sorry Mr. Schmidt.”

“So, have you interpreted that line?”

“Trevor did, but I think he’s wrong.”

“Tom, there are no ‘wrong’ interpretations of poetry. The poet just wants you to think about what he’s said. Trevor can’t be ‘wrong’. There is no ‘wrong’. We don’t use that word in my class. Go ahead and tell us what you think. Stand up so we can hear you.”

Trevor stood, sure in his interpretation.

“Well, like ‘destiny’ is our future, right? And the seed comes from our dad and goes into our mom. And all that stuff inside women is pretty weird and mysterious. Realms are places. That’s what it means, ‘the seeds of destiny are sown in mysterious realms’.”

Mr. Schmidt’s face went pale and he held his lips tightly together.

“Dude,” Tom whispered, shaking his head, “I told you.”

Sharon, Shannon and Sherry turned bright red. Janine, Jerome, Janelle, Jessica, and Jim laughed so hard tears streamed down their cheeks. Ramona, Robbie, and Rex sat stunned, afraid to laugh because maybe Trevor was right and they hated this poetry shit. Others sat wide-eyed, staring at Mr. Schmidt, waiting for a cue.

“OK,” said Mr. Schmidt. “Who has the next line?”

Not the Sistine Chapel, but…

Watercolor pencil — photo taken with my new phone. The colors are not this intense on the original so I’ll have to learn to use this thing… Still so much better than photos with my old phone. Mom pig (on the ground) two young pigs. Mom is black and white, young pigs are red and black. If it were an oil painting or acrylic, I could fix the cat’s head and front legs but the wonderful thing about making art is you will fuck up. It’s important to reach. 🙂 The only parts of this I really like are the front pig, the wood, the fence and the straw.

High Tech Hiking Shorts

“I’m NOT dating him. We’re just colleagues.”

“You spend an awful lot of time with him.”

“Men and women can be friends.”

“Seriously? You’re really NOT interested in him? Because I am and I don’t want you to be in my way, you know? I mean, we’re friends, right?”

Augusta’s radar was up. Ah. Lauren is THAT kind of friend,” she thought.

“Don’t worry about it,” Augusta said to Lauren. “We’re just friends.” She didn’t tell Lauren what Joe had said about her bright blue eyes, her lithe yoga figure, her long legs, shoulder-length carrot-colored hair, her cute blue-eyed grandkids with their matching hair. Joe had called them “adorable.”

“I don’t believe men and women can be friends,” Lauren went on, pressing the subject. “There must have been at least something between you in the past. You’ve known each other for years, right? Maybe you had a crush on him and he didn’t feel the same way. Happens.”

Augusta didn’t answer. “You want to keep going or head back? This is a turn-around point. If we don’t make a loop here we have another four miles.”

“Whatever you usually do.”

“I don’t have a ‘usually’,” said Augusta. “I just do what I feel like whenever.”

“I’ll bet you do.”

Yes. that kind of friend,” Augusta thought again. “So what do you think? Turn around now or keep going?”

“Keep going. I want to do the whole hike. Like you do. But, if you hike this every day, why are you still fat?”

Augusta shook her head and picked up her pace. The sun would set soon and the temperature was reaching the golden hour for rattlesnakes that had been hiding from the heat in the shade of the black sage and sumac. Sure enough. As they headed down a small slope, August spied a Southern Pacific rattlesnake coming out from the shadows. “Hang on, Lauren,” she called back. “There’s a snake. Let me move him off the trail.” Augusta used her long walking stick to encourage the snake back into the shade.

MOVE him? What kind of snake?”

“Oh, a little rattlesnake.”


“Yeah. It’s OK. I moved him.”

“Oh, Augusta. I just peed my pants.”

Well, at least they’re made out of wicking fabric,” thought Augusta, “They’ll dry.” “I’ll race you to the car,” she said, and took off running, leaving Lauren in the dust, thinking that God has a way of handling snarky bitches.

This story is based on real people and real events. The names have been changed for no particular reason.

Yung Luv’

“I don’t think he’s going to call me EVER.”

“Probably not. I don’t see you as a pair.”

“What does THAT mean? I thought you said he likes me?”

“Yeah, but not in THAT way.”

“Why not?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“I thought he was your friend.”

“He is but, believe it or not, we talk about other stuff. We don’t talk about you.”

“You’re mean.”

“No. I’m honest. I’m just telling you like it is.”

“Does he have a girlfriend now? You said he doesn’t have a girlfriend.”

“I don’t know. I don’t think so, but I’m not with him 24/7. Why don’t you just go find something to do and forget about Keith?”

“I can’t ‘forget about Keith’. I’m in love.”

“Oh god. Again?”

“Kids! Supper!”

“Let’s go in. Mom hates it when supper gets cold.”

What are you kids doing, anyway?”

“Brenda is in love again,” Ryan pulled the bar stool away from the breakfast bar in the kitchen where they ate their meals.

“Oh. Well, it’s to be expected.”

“What do you mean, mom? You’re as mean as Ryan.”

“Honey, you’re fifteen. You’re just boy crazy.”

“That’s not fair! I really LOVE Keith. He’s THE ONE I want to spend my whole life with. Didn’t you and dad meet in high school?”

“You really want me to repeat THAT story?”

“You loved each other, right?”

“Yeah, for a while. But then we didn’t love each other any more…”

“Why did you stop loving dad?”

“Honey I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s over, in the past, we’ve worked out a way we can be here for you, sometimes that’s the best two people can do. Your dad is happier with Cynthia than he ever was with me.” Mom shrugged.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“OK, Brenda, I’ll lay it all out for you. When we’re young hormones rage through our bodies…”

“Everyone blames ‘hormones’. This isn’t ‘hormones’. It’s love.”

“OK, but you asked a question, and I’m trying to answer it. Your dad was cute, I was cute. We were propelled by higher forces toward each other and there was Ryan, so we had to get married.”

“You weren’t even MARRIED when you made me?” Ryan almost tipped over his barstool, laughing.

“No, we weren’t married. It made things very very difficult. I had to drop out of school to have you. Your dad had to go to work while he finished school. We weren’t kids any more. Life changed from one thing to another thing, a very serious thing.”

“Why didn’t you use a condom?”

“Buying a condom in those days was embarrassing. You had to go to the drug store and ASK for one.”


“Listen, kids, the world doesn’t stay the same. Something changes every day. Anyway, as time went by, I got my GED, dad went to community college, Brenda came along, we got a house, and, sometime in there, we realized we had nothing in common. Your dad was already sleeping with Cynthia. He didn’t want to break up our family, but… So, Brenda, when I say ‘hormones’ I mean ‘hormones’. When I see your dad now I wonder what I was thinking. In fact, I wasn’t thinking.”

“There you go, Brenda. If Keith isn’t calling you, it’s not because he doesn’t like you. It’s because his hormones don’t.”

“Pretty much,” said Mom. “You want more Tuna Helper?”

Quotidian Update 7653

My new phone is sitting here challenged to activate itself. It keeps trying and I honor it for that. I feel a lot like lady Astor here with new tech awaiting the delivery of a push lawn mower sometime today. I really really really really hate my lawn mower and I think that’s one reason I don’t want to mow the lawn. The mower has a bag, the mower itself is heavy the bag fills up, makes it heavier, the cord is a pain to deal with etc etc etc first world problem. I thought when I moved here that an electric mower would be the answer but it isn’t. And, after living through fire in CA I don’t want to deal with gasoline at all.

The plan is to go pick up groceries this morning and see if I can activate my phone in the parking lot in that comparatively busy city with comparatively more of the stuff that makes a city a city. Key word? Comparative. It’s funny how little I care now that I understand why the phone isn’t happening. Humans, beginning about age 3, really are all about “Why??”

I was also thinking about life in Southern California 7, 8 years ago and how I waited for the temperature to get “down” to 90 F (32 C) so I could ride the bike to nowhere… Now when it hits 90, we hide in the house. Of course, I’m 4000 feet (1200 m?) closer to the sun and that, strangely, does make the sun stronger… Oh well. How can I complain if the beans are happy? 🙂